Director of rugby Dean Richards says competition for places is making selection difficult for Newcastle Falcons’ return to Aviva Premiership action on Sunday, when Leicester Tigers visit Kingston Park Stadium.
The Falcons look set for their first sell-out crowd in more than nine years as they host the club with which Richards spent the majority of his playing career, going on to coach them to four Premiership titles and a pair of European Cups.
But with Newcastle placed fourth in the table and top of their European group there has been no shortage of options for the England and Lions great as he prepares for Friday’s team announcement.
Having defeated Dragons and Bordeaux-Begles, Richards said: “We’ve had two weeks in Europe and kept up the momentum, the beauty of which is that selection has been really difficult this week.
“Whichever team we go with there will be some boys disappointed at missing out, but we’re in a good place at the moment due to the competition we have for every single position.
“That’s exactly what you want, and the beauty of what we have done over the past six to eight weeks is that we’ve given people opportunities which they’ve taken.”
Tigers were one-point winners in last year’s corresponding fixture, Richards full of respect for his former club.
“Leicester are a good team and are also coming into this game with momentum from their big European win over Castres last weekend,” he said.
“They’re a hard-nosed team who have a certain amount of finesse – not as much as us, but at the same time they bring a hard edge to their game and a bit of niggle. At times in the past we have struggled a bit against that side of things but we’ll see how things go this weekend, and I’m sure the officials will be on top of certain things that particular players of theirs like to do.
“We have a lot of respect for Leicester and on paper they are an outstanding side, but with the money they’ve spent on their squad they should be in the top four year in, year out. They’ll have been disappointed with the last few years in terms of not winning anything, and ultimately that will be their goal.”
With all the signs pointing towards Kingston Park Stadium being a 10,200 sell-out for the first time since May 2008, Richards added: “It will be a fantastic atmosphere here on Sunday and there’s nothing better than Kingston Park when it’s a sell-out.
“I played here when it was like that, the atmosphere is unbelievable and myself and the players are all really looking forward to it.
“Ultimately we’ve got to get it into our head that this is just as big as any other game, and it’s what happens out on the field that really matters. Other things will have to be put to one side, but it should be a great occasion and we’re looking forward to it.”
The last few hundred tickets for Sunday’s game are available by clicking here.